Negotiating Maternity Leave

by Staff

Thinking about getting pregnant, or already pregnant? It's never too early think about what you will do when baby gets here. When planning your maternity leave, the more you can plan or arrange ahead of time the less stress you will feel.

It's important to check into all your options for maternity leave. If you talk to your boss before you know what is available to you, you will begin your negotiations at a disadvantage. You need to be prepared for their questions.

Try to anticipate all the changes that come with this major transition so you are prepared to respond to the questions with confidence. You can best negotiate your maternity leave by following these steps:

Know what benefits are available to parents working within your company. These could include, leave of varying length, disability leave, sick leave, vacation time, unpaid leave, returning to work part time, flextime, sick child care, or even the possibility of bringing your baby to work with you. It is also a good idea to keep up with the news about state and federal laws concerning family leave benefits.

Negotiate your leave with yourself. Know how long you can afford to take off, how much your job is part of your identity, what you feel is best for your new child, and your family as a whole, how you feel about sharing the care of your child with someone else, and so on. Whatever you decided, be prepared for days that you will have doubts. It's normal as you have strong feelings about staying at home or going back to work, and those feelings sometimes contradict themselves.

Involve your partner, if you have one. Talk about how you both expect your lives to change when baby arrives. Be honest with yourselves about how much additional laundry and cleaning there will be, and who will do what. Find out how your partner feels about both parents working and whether they will be able to support the decisions you make. Avoid the common mistake of trying to be super mom; taking on all the childcare yourself, rebuffing your partner's efforts, or you will possibly regret it once you go back to work. If you are on maternity leave and your partner isn't, encourage them to take over when they get home from work. This way you both gain childcare experience and gain confidence in your ability to care for the baby.

Negotiate your leave with your employer. Don't be hasty in the announcement of your pregnancy. The longer you wait to tell your employer, the less time they will think of you as pregnant. Be businesslike. You can't expect your employer to think of you in a kind and gentle way, but don't let their firmness cause you to loss your confidence. It's important that you remain flexible, and come up with options that benefit both you and your employer. A few examples:

  • Agree to take two months off instead of three.
  • Offer to come back part time, and take some work home.
  • Discuss working from home using a computer and internet connection.

If you and your employer find these feasible, let him/her know you are willing to invest both time and money into a home office that could work to both the company's and your advantage.

Also ask your employer for additional ideas and options. Most importantly don't agree to anything until you have had a chance to think through everything clearly.

Inspect your finances. Discuss your financial situation in detail with your partner. Considering carefully how much time you can afford off. Try to set some money aside if at all possible as a cushion before you take your leave. By doing this, your partner won't feel pressured to work longer hours, and you won't feel obligated to return to work before you are ready.

Ideally you will want to accomplish your maternity leave preparations by the middle of your pregnancy. By beginning to plan your maternity leave during early pregnancy or even preconception you will have plenty of time to research and discuss your options in a non-pressured environment. Even if you are very career driven you may be amazed at how a baby makes you feel.

Life after baby may be surprisingly hectic! You'll encounter many changes so be prepared for and open to whatever happens.

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